The Canary Islands have been a good transition, after the four day sail from Gibraltar we felt we were leaving the Mediterranean behind, but we still feel it's influence with the Spanish language and Mediterranean food, although there are fewer cobblestone streets, more goats in the hills and vast beaches with turquoise water so reminiscent of the Caribbean ahead.
The clock is ticking, days are counting down and time is running out on this side of the Atlantic. We can never say never, but chances are pretty good that we will not be back sailing these waters on our own boat, and that goes through our heads with each new port we reach and each picture we take. And still we work on finding the balance, to experience the places few go and the places the numerous vacationers frequent. No matter how much we like the little fishing villages, there is a reason for the bigger tourist attractions, the huge sand dune beaches, the black lava mountain parks, the perfect wind and wave conditions along the coast for surfing, kite boarding and wind surfing, and we can't miss those either. So we try to mix it up, and experience it through our eyes, making it our own whether we're alone or with a multitude of visitors.
And the Canaries has been a study in contrast. With Lanzarote, where things really seem to be black and white. The stark black volcanic mountainside with little vegetation, but surprisingly dotted with vineyards growing in spite of the black rocks with their miles of stone walls for protection from the wind. Where every building is painted bright white, and they miraculously remain white despite the windy, black landscape. A splash of color added by the local artist Cesar Manrique, who has decorated the countryside with sculptures at traffic circles, parks and mountain slopes. The island of Fuerteventura where goats outnumber people, and are better suited to traverse the steep, dry hills through the remote countryside, with it's miles and miles of barren dirt roads leading to tiny fishing villages perched on the edge of the island. It's huge dune beaches made of sand blown in from the nearby Sahara, bohemian surfing towns and countless nude German sunbathers. Tenerife with it's vast hiking trails through lava fields but also laurel tree filled forests and up the chilly, windy summit of Tiede, the highest peak in all of Spain. The lush, tiny island of La Gomera with so much green, labor intensive terrace farming striping the mountain sides, and hairpin turns up the windy, steep roads leading to small, colorful villages protected in the valleys below. Arriving last in Las Palmas on Gran Canaria where we are busy preparing for the crossing, meeting fellow travelers, doing an endless list of boat maintenance jobs, but still taking the time to practice our Spanish skills ordering meat at the local market, help out planting trees in the mountainside recently damaged by forest fires, explore the sights in the old town and bike to the near by surfing beach. It dawned on me on one early morning bike ride when I passed some men sleeping on the benches near the beach that we had not encountered homeless people in our travels through Europe, but then the police drove by waking the sleeping men as they went, it all seemed to be a pleasant interaction. The men packed up their belongings, stowed them behind the fence and sat back down on the bench, and I realized maybe we had seen the homeless, they were just disguised.
Sailing between each of the islands we were so sure we would be accompanied by the whales that frequent these waters, there was no sign of them but we were joined by schools of small dolphins playing in our boat wake and always big, rolling seas. I couldn't help but be envious of the birds flying alongside us with their flight plan a straight line above the crest of the huge waves as we rode them up and down. And at each stop we enjoyed the food of the islands, the wrinkly potatoes served everywhere with red pepper and cilantro sauces, fried sardines, countless varieties of goat cheese, world famous honey, palm syrup, squid from 900 meters down, and the award winning dry Malvasia wine. Stocking up before we leave our Mediterranean diet behind (the word diet in no way is meant in the context of cutting calories) we fill up every available space on board with tuna fish, seems I have an obsession with the olive oil packed jars and cans that tastes so like the fresh tuna caught here, it will be very hard to go back to Bumble Bee when we run out. How many jars are too many? 30 and counting, have not found the answer to that question yet. It might be better to ask, how long can I make them last?
They say all good things must come to an end, but must they really? We've enjoyed our time across the Atlantic and can't help but be a little sad to put it behind us, although we also feel that good things are still ahead. We'll be returning to the Caribbean, to old friends that we met before the crossing, revisiting favorite places that we've sailed to in the past but also new places we have yet to explore, and enjoying those perfect wind conditions. It will also be good to be closer to home. We were reminded again of the strong pull of family and friends after another unscheduled trip back from the Canaries to say our final good byes to Tony's mom, an amazing woman that loved life and family so much that she was with us for 97 wonderful years. Sharing the stories of her life there were some tears shed but many more laughs, she will be missed but it's reassuring to know that she is with us as we continue our travels, reminding us to enjoy these days, they are such a gift.
We feel so fortunate to be able to travel by boat, we've come to enjoy the tiny, out of the way places, and hard to reach spots. Talking with sailing families we've met we heard the profound way this travel has affected their kids, how great at a young age to have such a global view. But it also makes us appreciate seeing the world in a new way at our age, it's made us aware of the beauty that surrounds us in the people and places, and happy with the knowledge that good things really don't have to come to an end.